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At the Gate - Saturday

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Saturday's $200,000 Grade 3 El Camino Real at Golden Gate Fields is part of the road to the Kentucky Derby series, with 10 points being rewarded to the winner.

The race is not highly regarded as a key prep for the Run for the Roses, but there have been some runners that have used the race as a prep that have performed well in Triple Crown races.

Charismatic was the runner up in the race in 1999 and two months later pulled off the upset in the Kentucky Derby, returning $64.60.

Remember Tabasco Cat? The colt won the 1994 running of the El Camino Real Derby and parlayed it into victories in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

Others that come to mind include Snow Chief, Tank's Prospect and Gate Dancer.

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This year's running drew a field of nine including a pair of runners that will be sent out by trainer Bob Baffert, Grade 3 Sham third place finisher Manando (9-5) and Real Quiet Stakes winner Carving (3-1).

There is only one other Derby prep this holiday weekend, the Grade 3 $300,000 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

The race was not drawn as of Friday night, but a field of nine is expected to enter including the D. Wayne Lukas duo of Will Take Charge and Channel Isle and the Bob Baffert trainee Super Ninety Nine.

Others that are likely are Always in a Tiz, Big Lute, Brown Almighty, Fear the Kitten, Officer Alex and Texas Bling.

I will have selections for the race in Monday's column.

My Best Plays Report for Saturday includes my eight strongest plays from Gulfstream Park and Aqueduct.

Click here to purchase my full card report for Aqueduct for Saturday.

Purchase my Monthly Package and receive an entire month of Aqueduct action and my weekend Best Plays Reports for just $99.95.

Here is today's opening from Aqueduct to get the day off to a good start:

AQU Race 1 Clm $12,500B (12:30 ET)

7 Scenic Gulch 5-2
4 Stellars Theory 7-2
5 Hoopskirt 2-1
8 Miss Mexique 8-1

Analysis: Scenic Gulch steps up a notch in class here after beating $20,000 non-winners of two last out in her first start off the claim by the Contessa barn. The filly did not beat a real tough group but does appear to be heading in the right direction and makes her third start off the bench here. She broke her maiden over a sloppy track so if we do get some rain and snow today she looks more than capable to handle an off track.

Stellars Theory tracked the early pace while three wide heading down the backstretch had to steady briefly at the 7/16's when shifting toward the inside, was angled back toward the outside, came with a five wide bid and did not have enough punch left late. Both of the mare's wins have come on the inner track and she usually fires, landing in the money in 11 of her 16 career starts. She also has handled a wet track, landing in the money in all four trips on off going.

Wagering
WIN: #7 to win at 2-1 or better.
EX: 4,7 / 4,5,7,8
TRI: 4,7 / 4,5,7,8 / 2,4,5,7,8

Today's Featured Race of the Day from Gulfstream Park:

GP Race 10 The Mac Diarmida G2 (5:05 ET)
3 Lucky Chappy 5-1
9 Amira's Prince 4-1
2 Newsdad 3-1
4 Teaks North 10-1

Analysis: Lucky Chappy made a good late rally to finish third last out in the Hollywood Derby (G1), coming up 1 1/2 lengths shy of the top spot. The winner Unbridled Command came back to finish third in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) while the runner up Grandeur came back to win the Hollywood Turf Cup (G2) in his next outing on Dec. 15. It is hard to believe this guy has made nine starts since coming to the U.S. and has not hit the winner's circle at least once. The extra furlong here should suit and he has run well over ground with some give to it.

Amira's Prince makes his U.S. stakes debut here after beating Alw-1 and Alw-2 foes in his first couple of starts here. Last out he won over yielding footing going 1 1/2 miles in a sharp effort. The Mott runner looks as if he is sitting on a good one here third off the bench. He gets a class test but looks up to it and he has shown an ability to handle soft footing.

Wagering
WIN: #3 to win at 3-1 or better.
EX: 3,9 / 2,3,4,9
TRI: 3,9 / 2,3,4,9 / 2,3,4,5,9

Today's Featured Race of the Day from Golden Gate Fields:

GG Race 8 The El Camino Real Derby Post time 4:22 PT
5 Zeewat 5-2
8 Carving 3-1
4 Manando 9-5
1 Wildcat Moon 6-1

Zeewat overcame getting off a beat slow when he hopped at the start and hesitated slightly at the break to win the California Derby last out for his third stakes win in his career. The colt came with a four wide rally and battled on gamely in the stretch to prevail by a half-length over Wild Moon. The colt is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, who has won the El Camino Real Derby five times and jockey Russell Baze has won the race eight times. The son of Harlan's Holiday should get a good pace set up here as he should be able to track off what likely is going to be sharp early fractions.

Carving is one of two in here sent out by the Bob Baffert barn. The colt makes his three-year-olds debut here after making five starts last year including wins in the Afflebaugh at Fairplex and the Real Quiet at Hollywood Park over the fake stuff. He came up short in his last start in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity. The barn is 34% winners (with a +ROI) with runners coming back off a 61-180 day layoff. He figures to be the higher price of the two Baffert runners.

Manando owns the top two speed figs, last out setting the early fractions and weakening to finish third in the Grade 3 Sham at Santa Anita Park in his first go against winners. The colt was a good looking maiden winner two back at Hollywood Park and that effort was flattered when both the runner up and third place finisher both came back to win next out. The colt owns solid early and mid pace numbers but could end up getting mixed up in an early speed duel which will make his 9-5 morning line on the light side.

Wagering
WIN: Zeewat to win at 5-2 or better.
EX: 5,8 / 4,5,6,8
TRI: 5,8 / 4,5,6,8 / 2,4,5,6,8
Live Longshots:

These are price plays for exotic players looking to find a couple of extra contenders to use in their trifecta and superfecta wagers. Or for those with smaller bankrolls, you might want to get in a small win-place wager.

Aqueduct

R1: #8 Miss Mexique 8-1
R2: #1 Rich Hero 20-1
R4: #1 Layers 8-1
R5: #7 Kilnockagain 10-1
R6: #9 Coalition 8-1
R6: #4 Thor's Mjolnor 8-1
R7: #4 Everydoghashisday 15-1
R10: #10 Say Lancelot 12-1

Good luck today!

  
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  HORSE RACING EXPERT
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Mike covers the New York racing circuit (Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga) year round as well as Keeneland, Churchill Downs, the Triple Crown, and the Breeders’ Cup.
Last Year Mike had a solid Triple Crown, correctly picking the winning horse in 2 of 3 races. He selected I'll Have another to win The Preakness, and nailed Union Rags to win the Belmont Stakes as his top pick.

Mike has also had past succes in the Kentucky Derby,  winning with Animal Kingdom in 2011 and rode his top picks, Super Saver and Street Sense, to the finish line in 2010 and 2007 respectively.

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